A heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, or HVAC engineer designs heating and cooling systems for homes and commercial buildings. He uses knowledge of refrigeration and mechanical engineering to create blueprints for HVAC installers and general contractors. The HVAC engineer develops systems that keep building occupants comfortable in all types of climates and seasons. He also makes sure the building will be well-ventilated to protect the health of occupants. Finally, the HVAC engineer works with the building manager to create a system that maximizes energy efficiency while also meeting the manager's operating and maintenance budget.
At the start of a project, an HVAC engineer works closely with the project architect and other design engineers. He designs HVAC systems based on the size and layout of the building, as well as expected occupant loads and functions. Using these figures, he performs calculations to size heating and cooling equipment and layout supply and return ductwork systems. He also determines the best placement for air supply grills or vents in each room. During this entire design process, the HVAC engineer must ensure the system meets all local building code requirements.
Once design is complete, the HVAC engineer uses computer-aided design software to develop blueprints. These blueprints are sent to the contractor to show which equipment to use and where it should be placed within the building. During the construction process, the engineer may visit the job site to answer questions or oversee HVAC installation. After completion, he may assist with troubleshooting or balancing the system to help maximize performance.
Most companies require engineers to obtain an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering or a similar field. Many companies also require the candidate to earn a graduate-level degree, though some will accept work experience in lieu of an advanced degree. Those looking to pursue a career in this field should take courses in math, science, physics and mechanical fields. It is also helpful to learn about basic construction principles in order to coordinate more effectively with other trades.
An HVAC engineer may find employment with a commercial or residential HVAC installation company or even a general contracting firm. Some work for architectural agencies or large engineering firms, while others operate on a freelance or consulting basis. Many municipal agencies hire HVAC engineering staff to design large-scale mechanical systems. These employees create plans for new government buildings, or other municipal facilities like metro stations or amphitheaters.